However, the experience of the First World War shows that insurance and reinsurance can be used as a data transmission channel, constituting military and state secrets.
Some of stories Russian insurance
The development of insurance in the Russian Empire has its historical roots. It is known that insurance appeared in Western countries earlier than this form of protection of life, property and capital took root on Russian soil. In Russia, for a long time, the functions of insurance reserves were carried out by communal mutual assistance and collective proceeds in distress. Also, community members carried together all the "state taxes", as they were then called charges, duties and other encumbrances. Yes, the natural exchange prevailing in the village and the weak development of the country's economy as a whole did not require the active development of insurance. Although some insurance organizations have already appeared as some foreign innovations. In the history of domestic insurance there is a mention of the first mutual insurance company created in Riga in 1765 year. Moreover, insurance issues began to appear in regulatory documents. For example, the Charter of merchant shipping from 1771, the Russian merchants who traded in overseas countries, were allowed to insure their merchant ships and goods. But all these were only isolated copies from Western insurance relationships.
The first step in the development of Russian insurance was made during the reign of Catherine the Great in 1786, when an Insurance Expedition was created under the manifesto of the State Loan Bank. So in the Russian Empire appeared the first public insurance organization. Insurance began to be used as a tool for the financial protection of stone buildings that were taken as collateral in obtaining bank loans. This type of insurance was mandatory, since no loan was issued without an insurance document.
The empress’s manifesto actually established a state monopoly on insurance. The document was directly forbidden to transfer to insurance "in foreign countries, houses and local factories." Catherine II explained the reason for such a strict ban on foreign insurance. Even then, she understood that foreign insurers would "withdraw money to the detriment or loss of the state." But in the implementation of their requirements, she showed a certain flexibility in the interests of filling the treasury. Banks were allowed to take pledged buildings insured in foreign societies, subject to payment of 1,5% of the sum insured in favor of the Public Charity Order. In its economic essence, it was a fine that replenished the item of social spending.
The insurance expedition existed as a state insurer for 36 years, however, it was not possible to achieve high levels of financial performance or assistance to policyholders. At the time of the liquidation of the expedition in 1822, all 25 buildings were insured in it.
The main thing - to be protected from fires
Even at that time, the huge insurance potential of Russia attracted the attention of foreign insurers. Among the first we had a representative office of the English joint-stock insurance company "Phoenix". The British insurer is actively engaged in insuring capital buildings from fire. It became clear that this is a very profitable business.
The history of fires in the vastness of the Fatherland is impressive both in its scale and in enormous material losses. For several centuries, the fire element caused damage more than war and the devastating raids of militant neighbors. Fire risk is constantly increasing due to the high density of buildings (especially in cities) and the massive use of wooden materials. For example, in the first almost 5 centuries of its existence, Moscow 13 once burned out completely and about 100 once suffered losses from fire for the most part. Fires during the French occupation in September 1812 of the year destroyed nearly three quarters of Moscow’s buildings. According to some estimates, the fires of those days destroyed about 6,5 thousand houses, more than 8 thousand shops, shops and warehouses, 122 Orthodox churches, as well as university buildings, Arbat and Petrovsky theaters. Thousands of wounded soldiers and civilians died in the fire.
In 1827, for the first time, the joint-stock Russian Fire Insurance Company was created. It certainly was a step in the right direction. However, this unique Russian society could not either resolve the issue of financial protection of property from fire, or press foreigners on the insurance market. Even with the personal support of Emperor Nicholas I.
The fire element continued to devastate cities and other villages. More than once fires raged in the capital of the empire. Thus, a three-night fire on Christmas Eve 1837, destroyed the Winter Palace. Burned and other cities - Kazan, Mogilev, Orel. Not just burned down Novgorod, Suzdal and Vladimir. Saratov completely burned out 15 times.
In March, 1835, Emperor Nicholas I, by his decree, approved the creation of the Second Russian Fire Insurance Company, which, like the First Society, was granted tax privileges. The monopolistic conditions for his successful work in the 40 provinces of the empire have also been preserved.
Foreigners in life insurance
But foreigners found huge market niches for themselves and sought to cover them with insurance. It happened, for example, with life insurance. In 1834, Prussia’s citizen Ferdinand Schwedersky, through the channels of the Empire’s Foreign Ministry, applied for the creation of the first life insurance company in Russia. It should be noted that at that time more than 50 similar insurance companies were successfully operating in the world. At home, the emergence of life insurance in England operated 44 such society in Germany - 4, in France - 3.
In September 1835, Nicholas I signed a decree establishing a life insurance company, which was granted the monopoly conditions of 20-year work in the emerging insurance market of the empire. Unfortunately, the first client was also a foreigner Gustav Schulze, who valued his life in 20 thousand rubles. A huge amount for those times!
During the first 2 years after the start of life insurance in the Russian Empire, an interesting trend emerged. Insured, mostly foreigners. Russian turned out to be only about 7% of the total number of insured. This circumstance was noted by the great Russian poet A. Pushkin. "... To insure life in Russia, as usual, is not introduced ... For the time being, we are not insured, but intimidated." For many years, death insurance was considered a bad omen in Russia.
Insurance and reinsurance abroad
Over time, Russian insurers received the right to conduct insurance and reinsurance operations abroad. This led to the fact that among the employees of joint-stock insurance companies, and especially among the leaders of insurance companies, foreigners began to prevail. Especially many were immigrants from Germany and Austria.
At the same time, since 1894, state control over the insurance business has been established in the empire. These functions were assigned to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where the insurance committee was formed, with extensive rights and powers. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the committee was reorganized into a Special Presence for Insurance and Fire Fighting Measures.
In 1895, the Russian Reinsurance Company was created, which by definition and financial resources could not assume all the risks of reinsurance in the Russian Empire. By that time, the oldest and largest Cologne, Munich and Swiss reinsurance companies had successfully operated in Europe for several decades.
In 1912, the life insurance portfolio of foreign companies exceeded 56 thousand contracts, while 8 domestic insurance companies concluded only 162 thousand contracts. For more than a quarter of a century, the American insurance companies New York and Equitable have successfully worked in the Russian Empire, as well as the French insurer Urbain. As a result, foreign insurers accumulated the most important information about the personal life of the subjects of the empire. This is what is now called personal data. Reinsurance documents contained information about the property and class status and, as a rule, about the health of the insured or the insured.
In the pre-war years and in the initial period of the war, domestic insurance companies carried out all reinsurance contacts and operations with German societies through two intermediary offices: Müntzenbächer and Mundestor and Wiese, Heisen and Co. Surprisingly, both these offices were not subject to any supervision, control and accountability by the Russian authorities. But through them, only in 1913, 11 of Russian insurers transferred to Germany reinsurance risks of 55 million rubles.
Insurance and reinsurance during the First World War
With the outbreak of hostilities against Germany and its allies, the problems of our insurance vulnerabilities immediately showed up. In the 1914, the Russian Empire operated 21 English Insurance Company, 21 German and 6 Austro-Hungarian insurers, 5 Swedish and Norwegian insurers, and 4 Danish insurance companies.
With the beginning of the war, reinsurance operations in Germany and its allies did not cease, but became more hidden. Considering the fact that foreign companies were prohibited from transferring more than 40% of the reinsurance premium to reinsurance, reinsurance of Russian contracts became through various intermediaries. It is unlikely that this situation could always be considered evil intent or betrayal. The situation with the underdevelopment of the Russian reinsurance market also pushed for this. However, cooperation with the organizations of the enemy during the war years was unacceptable.
In addition to the historically established mass attraction of German and Austrian insurance specialists to work in domestic insurance companies, there has been a long-term practice of reinsuring major risks abroad and, first of all, in Germany. If in peacetime such business relations were often evaluated as economic bondage, then with the outbreak of hostilities between the Russian and German empires, such insurance operations began to cause direct damage to defense.
Gradually, the insurance business in the Russian Empire was rebuilt in a military way. For example, at the initiative of the government, insurance of ships and cargo against war danger was introduced. At the same time, бра risk was assumed by the state, and the insurance company assumed the remaining ¼ risk without the right to reinsurance. However, measures were taken often with a delay.
Reinsurance in Germany: "legalized espionage"
The insurance industry has concentrated the most accurate and complete data on the most important military-economic areas. Much of the information passed on to the Germans when concluding reinsurance contracts was a military secret. For example, complete financial, economic and production indicators of Russian armory, gunpowder, cartridge and shipbuilding enterprises. Under the terms of the contracts, domestic insurers transmitted information about the readiness to launch our warships and the production of equipment.
The author of the work “Insurance and War”, published in those years in Perm, reasonably expressed the fear that many military-industrial secrets through reinsurance mechanisms fall into the hands of the enemy. In particular, they talked about information transmitted to Germany about Nikolaevsk, Revelsky and Baltic shipyards, as well as about Putilovsky and Obukhovsky military productions. Judging by the text, the author was associated with the military industry. In those years, factories for the production of shells of various calibers, including shells for naval artillery, operated in Perm in full force. It also produced light and mountain cannons for the needs of the front.
In fact, before the start of 1915, military, economic, and technological information was transmitted by some Russian insurers to our enemies. Every day after 4 hours of the day, lists of reinsurance risks went to Germany. “After all, this is legalized espionage on a large scale,” contemporaries were outraged.
In addition, an extensive network of insurance agents working in the interests of German, Austrian and other foreign insurance companies continued to operate on the territory of the Russian empire during the initial period of the war. In addition to information about the circumstances of life on the ground, they reported on the movement and location of troops. The forces and means of territorial gendarme directorates, which were assigned military counterintelligence functions in wartime, were not always enough to effectively suppress the enemy’s intelligence activities.
As of the end of 1914, 19 was operated by Russian insurance companies in the Russian Empire, of which 15 provided fire insurance with reinsurance of risks abroad. In order to control reinsurance operations during the war years, 5 insurance companies, and then all others, were subordinated to the government inspection first. The reason for the introduction of such rigid control and organizational measures was the wide reinsurance contacts of these insurers abroad. Several insurance companies came under suspicion of conducting reinsurance in Germany through neutral countries.
However, despite all the measures taken, information on the financial and economic status of individual localities and settlements, maps of buildings of cities, towns and villages, including in the territories adjacent to the battle sites, continued to be transferred to enemy insurance companies.
It took a lot of time and effort to close all the diversion channels of military and industrial secrets. Reinsurance procedures in the camp of the enemy were strictly prohibited. The military industry of Russia has established the release of all necessary for the front of weapons, equipment and ammunition. For example, in April, 1915 was appointed Major General S. Vankov, authorized by the Chief Artillery Directorate (GAU) for the manufacture of 3-x and 6-inch inch shells for field artillery. He managed in the shortest possible time to attract more than 400 state and private factories to meet the needs of the troops. At the same time, partially military equipment and machine tools were purchased from allies and in neutral countries. Mainly (more than half) of orders for equipment abroad accounted for the United States. We also bought English, Swedish and Danish machines.
History lessons show unobvious options for the potential transfer of information constituting state or military secrets using insurance and reinsurance mechanisms. In today's global economy, insurance has virtually no limits. Regulatory regulation in the framework of international and national law does not exclude the possibility of leakage of important information through reinsurance operations with the use of nominees or intermediaries. This fully applies to the Russian Federation. Internal opportunities and reinsurance capacities do not allow accepting risks, for example, of natural monopolies and the largest domestic producers. This situation requires constant attention and control by supervisory and law enforcement agencies.